Company (or Freelance):
Did you attend school for an audio-related degree? If so, what school and degree?
School: University of Lincoln, UK
Degree: B.S. Audio Technology
What inspired you to work with sound?
I can’t pinpoint an exact inspiration, but my interest in sound stems from when I took a music technology course at college for no other reason than I thought it looked like an engrossing subject. It wasn’t until afterwards that I started to look into the career paths that sound had to offer.
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
I don’t recall a specific point when I looked at sound and thought “I want to do that”. Even through taking the educational path I feel that I fell into sound somewhat. In that the more I learnt about it; the more I became interested in it.
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
I believe like most people I combined the two. After I studied music technology at college I hadn’t planned to go into higher education. However a new audio technology course started at my local university, Lincoln. I applied partly because it was a continuation of what I’d done previously at college and partly because I didn’t have anything better planned.
Although the course, being relatively new, had teething problems and certain aspects of audio weren’t covered thoroughly or at all. However rather than use this as an excuse I took it as an opportunity to teach myself, and tailor my education to the aspects I wanted to learn e.g. voice recording, microphone placement, multi-track studio use.
What is your specialty/preference of the sound fields (sound design, music, recording, audio programming, implementation, etc)? What do you like most about it?
Sound design and music recording/production are definitely my two strongest fields, although I haven’t had to practice the latter since leaving university. I see the two fields as an audio jigsaw of sorts, building up the parts of audio until it’s complete. It can be frustrating at the start staring at a blank project, but it’s immensely satisfying when it all comes together.
At the time of writing this I’m in the process of setting up a freelance audio production business, in which I hope to specialize in sound design/production and music recording.
What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
The two main digital audio workstations I used were Apple’s Logic and Pro Tools, Logic specifically we learnt in some depth. As such it has become my audio software of choice. The University also had a fantastic technical equipment library, which meant I had plenty of opportunities to experiment with different microphones and mic techniques.
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
Although audio made up for only a quarter of the degree (as mentioned the degree had some teething problems), the projects ranged from the standard multi-track music recordings to more specific radio based projects i.e. radio show, drama and documentary productions.
The project that obviously grabbed me the most was the sound design project, in which I had re-skin audio for a short scene. This is what really sparked my interest specifically in sound design.
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
My main lecturer was David McSherry, one half of the electronica act Fila Brazillia. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of them before university as they were a little before my time. However they produced ten albums and other releases over twelves years. It was an honor to be taught by someone who was so passionate and knowledge about all aspects of audio.
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
Whilst at university I was attempting to forge myself a career in radio. I worked on a variety of shows for the local BBC station, BBC Radio Lincolnshire, including the mid-morning, lunch time and drive time shows. However it was my work on the local news music show, BBC Lincolnshire Introducing, where I really got to stretch my creative bow. Alongside regular tasks that were required for the production of the show, I had the opportunity to produce feature packages and interviews and produce the live sound for the bands that performed on the show.
I also did an internship at the national music station BBC 6 Music, which was a fantastic experience not least for the musicians and celebrities I met (the highlight being the Foo Fighters). I also produced a station advertisement package for the station, which was also aired.
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
All of the feature packages I produced for the Introducing show where aired, including interviews with the Manic Street Preachers, Lostprophets and Thrice. Unfortunately not all of them survived a hard drive crash my laptop suffered. However the packages that did survive from BBC Radio Lincolnshire and BBC 6 Music is available on the radio productions section of my online portfolio.
Sadly they weren’t profitable but I did get paid for the work I did at BBC Radio Lincolnshire.
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
It was a relatively small class, around fifteen people. I lived at home in order to save money whilst at university so I didn’t become close with any of them. The only person I do keep in contact with I knew beforehand.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
None, we’ve all gone out very separate ways. In fact I think I’m the only one out of my graduating class that still works in audio!
Any old classmates you want to mention? The more the merrier with the audio community!
Unfortunately not. I wish I did, the audio community is a damn friendly one.
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
Definitely. While it didn’t give me a specific path into audio, my audio technology course gave me a general overview and understanding of the varying career paths an audio degree could forge. The degree gave me knowledge in general areas such as how sound works; certain fields such as music production and sound design; and more specific aspects such as mic techniques and digital audio workstations.
Without my degree it would have certainly been more difficult to know what my preferred path in audio would have been, and if I’d even gone down the audio route without it.
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
I do, my portfolio can be found at www.leoworsdale.co.uk. It contains examples of my work in video game journalism (I’m the deputy editor for a British based gaming website called www.gamebrit.com), radio production and of course sound design. It also contains a blog in which I update my career progress in sound, which I update with (hopefully) useful advice in the hope that it will help others in a similar position to myself i.e. forging a career in audio. I try to blog on about it at least one or twice a month, but work doesn’t always let that happen.
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
I certainly do. www.twitter.com/leoworsdale is my Twitter address. I regular check Twitter, I don’t tweet as often as I should but I do tweet!
I follow a lot of people in the sound design and video game sound design communities (special thanks to Joe Cavers at Rocksteady Studio for introducing me), who have been really friendly and helpful. But I’m always looking for more interesting sound types to follow.
Any last words for future audio people looking to carve their education and career paths?
One of my biggest regrets was that I tried to force a career in radio rather than sound design, which was/is my audio preference , because I thought it provided better career opportunities. My heart was never in radio, as a result it never worked out. Long story short, work towards what you’re passionate about. If you’re heart is in what you’re doing you’re going to try much harder as a result. I know I do!
Also, follow me on Twitter!
About Sonic Backgrounds
The sound industry is an ever growing field, ranging from linear sound design in film and TV, to interactive audio in games, and from live theatrical sound design to field recording for the creation of custom libraries. It is only recently however, that school programs have begun to offer degrees in the sound-specific variety. Graduates of these new programs are now coming into the industry, and it provokes the interesting question of how these new, specific programs are preparing individuals for the sound world, as opposed to the older approaches of entry, such as pure passion, musical talent, a film degree, or a computer science degree.
“Sonic Backgrounds” is an interview series focused on interviewing recent graduates of these educational sound programs around the globe, to see what exactly they are providing, and how they are shaping the new “academic”-based sound artist.